Now it is Mother’s Day, and what that usually means is that the family’s all together. And, of course, that’s for sure right now around the world. So, perhaps, mom and dad and kids and maybe some extended family are all together on this day. And we don’t want to pick on mom. We do want to show our love and affection to her. But it seemed to me a wonderful opportunity while all the families are together to talk about what is essential for a family, what is essential for a family. And the most important thing, the most essential thing in the life of a family is wisdom, is wisdom. And I want to talk about that from the Word of God. In fact, I’m going to let heaven speak through Scripture. The words that you will be hearing in this message are the words of Scripture with a little bit of comment from me.
In Daniel chapter 1 and verse 17, it was said about the four young men who were taken into Babylonian captivity that “God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom” - knowledge, intelligence, and wisdom. In Daniel chapter 5, again Daniel is brought before the king, and the king says, “Now I have heard about you, that the Spirit of God is in you, and that illumination insight and extraordinary wisdom has been found in you.” What an amazing commendation. I’m sure as parents we would love to have that be the description of all of our children: “Extraordinary wisdom is found in you.”
Now when we’re talking about wisdom we’re talking about something that transcends knowledge. If all of man’s accumulated knowledge from the beginning of recorded history to 1845 we’re represented by one inch, from 1845 to 1945 would be about three inches, and from 1945 to 1975 would represent the height of the Washington Monument – and that’s 555 feet high. Inventor, innovator, and mathematician Buckminster Fuller presented his knowledge doubling curve in 1982 in a best-seller called Critical Path. He argued that our acquisition of knowledge at the end of World War II had jumped from doubling approximately every century to doubling every twenty-five years, and he said it would continue to accelerate. By 2010 nanotechnology had arrived and knowledge doubled every two years: clinical knowledge every eighteen months. So on an average, human knowledge they say right now is doubling about every thirteen months, that is, up until this particular era when we are told that knowledge is doubling every twelve hours, every twelve hours. Massive amount of information.
In spite of the fact that we live in a world of exploding knowledge that we can barely keep up with, we are still described in the Scripture as fools. In Romans 1 it describes humanity as “professing to be wise, but having become fools.” Romans 1 says that “men became futile in their speculations and their foolish heart was darkened.” Essentially, men are described, no matter how much knowledge they have, as fools.
In the New Testament, in the book of Ephesians, we get a description of humanity in these words, chapter 4, verse 17 of Ephesians: “So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the nations also walk, in the futility of their mind,” – empty-mindedness – “being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.” That’s quite a pathological description, isn’t it. The nations walk in an empty-minded manner, darkened with sin and ignorance, so that they cannot understand divine truth. They are left then to function out of that darkened mind, and it shows up as sensuality and the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.
On the other hand, Paul then writes, “But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” Difference between nonconverted people and believers is the difference between a fool and one who has true knowledge and wisdom, wisdom that is from above.
The Bible says that “fools are ever-learning,” 2 Timothy 3:7, “ever-learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” What a hopeless course that is. Let me say it again: “Fools are ever-learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” There’s a reason for that. First Corinthians 2:14 says, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” They use words not taught by human wisdom.
Human wisdom cannot ascertain the truth of God. Human wisdom is just another name for foolishness. This is the pervasive, universal reality that characterizes all human beings. In fact, going back to Proverbs 22:15 it says, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.” We come into the world as fools. It is part of being sinful. It is part of being alienated from God, separated from Him.
Now if we break that down a little bit and ask the question, “What characterizes or marks the fool?” and I’ll show you what the Scripture says. Number one, they all reject God, and I say that when referring to the true, the only, the one true and living God. All fools reject God.
Listen to what it says in Psalm 14: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; there is no one who does good. The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” And Paul, of course, repeats that text in Romans chapter 3. But the first characteristic of humanity, the natural man, is that he rejects God. That’s where his foolishness begins. In Psalm 74, a couple times it says, “Fools blaspheme God. They reproach Him every day.”
In Romans chapter 1, a very familiar portion of Scripture, if you pick it up in verse 25, Romans 1, speaking of the natural man: “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions.” So they rejected God. That’s characteristic of human foolishness, they reject God. Consequently a judgment fell, and “God gave them over.” “God gave them over,” verse 24, “in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator who is blessed forever. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions,” – and this is speaking of homosexuality – “their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.” Built-in punishment for homosexual behavior.
And all of this, verse 28 says, because “they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper,” – What kind of things? – “being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they’re gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and though they know the ordinance” – or commandments – “of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.”
So here is essentially the characterization of every sinner in the world. He is a fool, she is a fool, because they reject God. And because they reject God, because they exchange the truth of God for a lie, because they refuse to acknowledge God as He should be acknowledged, God turns them over to deeper and deeper levels of corruption: sexual immorality, homosexual immorality, and finally, a reprobate mind, a depraved mind that can’t function. This describes a fool. May be highly educated, but is a fool, nonetheless.
The second characteristic of a fool – first, they reject God; and secondly, they worship self. Proverbs 12:15 says this: “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes.” “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes.” Or, Proverbs 28:26, “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool.” He is his own source and standard of truth, his own source and standard of right and wrong. He, for all intents and purposes, is God; he makes the rules; and this, of course, is idolatry, and it is the universally common idolatry among all who reject the true God; they worship themselves as if they were God.
There’s a third characteristic of fools. They reject God, they worship self, and thirdly, they mock sin, they mock sin. Proverbs 14:9 says, “Fools mock at sin.” That is to say they have nothing but scorn for anything that defines their behavior as wrong, corrupt, or sinful. They mock the whole idea of sin. They mock the whole idea of transgression, iniquity.
Scripture describes fools and their mockery of sin by saying this: they walk in darkness; they cling to sin; they are corrupt; they are abominable; they are self-sufficient, self-deceived, empty-talkers, liars, angry, lazy, contentious, hypocritical, idolatrous, and self-destructive. No matter how much knowledge they have, fools reject God, worship themselves, and mock the whole notion of sin.
And as a result of that there’s a fourth characteristic of fools: they corrupt others, they corrupt others. Proverbs 15:2 says, “The mouth of fools spouts folly.” And later in that same chapter it says that “the fool’s mouth feeds on folly.” They despise wisdom and instruction,” Proverbs 1:7, and they make sure that their disdain for it is known by all those around them. So that essentially is a description of the whole human race: fools born into this world - foolish; that foolishness shows up in hating God, worshiping self, mocking sin, and corrupting others.
Into this world has come wisdom, it has come to rescue fools. If you look back again to Proverbs, the book of Proverbs is the book of wisdom, and it begins by personifying wisdom as if wisdom is a person speaking. If you look at chapter 1 and verse 20, “Wisdom shouts in the street, she lifts her voice in the square; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the gates in the city she utters her sayings: ‘How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing and fools hate knowledge?’” This is to say that God has revealed His wisdom in the world, and wisdom is there crying in the streets to the fools.
What does wisdom ask? Verse 23: “Turn to my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you. Because I called and you refused, I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention; and you neglected all my counsel and did not want my reproof; I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes, when your dread comes like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you.”
God says, “Look, I put wisdom in the world. It’s crying out. It’s crying out from the Scriptures; it always has. And men don’t hear it; they refuse. They neglect divine counsel.” And God says, “The day will come when I will laugh at your judgment. The day will come,” verse 28, Proverbs 1, “they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but they will not find me, because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord.”
This is a characterization of humanity: fools who refuse knowledge. Verse 29: “They hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord.” That chapter ends in verse 33: “But he who listens to me shall live securely” – safely – “and will be at ease from the dread of evil.” “Fools die,” says Proverbs 10:21, “for lack of understanding.” And when it speaks about them dying it doesn’t just mean they die physically; it means they die spiritually and they die eternally. And the irony of all of this is that fools think they’re wise.
Go back to Romans chapter 1, and you remember these very familiar words, verse 18 of Romans 1: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” And their wisdom is crying even from creation as well as revelation, but men to not hear.
Verse 21: “Even though they knew God,” that is, they knew that God had to exist, “they didn’t honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became empty in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools.” “Professing to be wise, they became fools.” You can be the most educated person in the world. You can have all the degrees possible from all of the elite institutions; you can have PhDs; but if you do not know God, if you reject God, if you worship yourself, if you mock sin and you are a corrupting influence around you, you are a fool. You may profess to be wise, but you are a fool.
What defines a fool? First Corinthians chapter 1, verse 18: “The word of the cross” – the gospel – “is foolishness to those who are perishing.” Anybody who rejects the gospel is a fool. Anyone who rejects the gospel is a fool.
Down in verse 23 of 1 Corinthians 1, “We preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness.” If you call the gospel foolishness you are the ultimate fool, the ultimate fool.
In chapter 3 of 1 Corinthians, verse 18, “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, ‘He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness’; and again, ‘The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless.’” The reasonings of the wise are useless. We live in a world full of fools: fools in high places, fools with degrees, fools with education.
On the other hand, people who are wise are the people who believe in the true God and come to Him through Christ. What did the apostle Paul say in 2 Timothy 3:15? He spoke of the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ. It’s a great statement. Speaking to Timothy, “You heard from your family the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.” It is the people who have come to Christ who are the truly wise people.
Go back again to 1 Corinthians chapter 1, and we read in verse 30, “By His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God.” The world is full of fools. They are educated fools, more educated than ever in human history. But they are fools if they reject God. And the only way to know God: the gospel of Jesus Christ. Christ is the wisdom of God.
As believers, Paul also in 1 Corinthians 2 says – and this is so wonderful, in verse 16 - “For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” It’s astonishing to hear that statement: “We have the mind of Christ.” What does that mean? We know what Christ knows. How is that so? Because He’s taught us in His Word, and He’s given us the resident truth-teacher in the Holy Spirit, who leads us into all truth and brings this truth to clarity.
We have the Scriptures. We have the anointing from God, the Holy Spirit. We know the truth, and because we know the truth, we know the mind of Christ because the truth revealed in Scripture is the mind of Christ. We know how Christ thinks about everything that the Bible speaks about. Christ is to us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption because we have the mind of Christ. And it comes because we believe the Scripture.
Do you remember on the road to Emmaus, Jesus said to those disciples, “O fools, fools and slow of heart, to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” You’re a fool if you don’t believe what is in the Scripture.
The book of Proverbs, then, is a book of wisdom. The book of Proverbs gives us contrasts between fools and wise. So I want you to look at the book of Proverbs with me for a little bit, and we’re going to work our way through it, and you’re going to see ten basic, foundational revelations regarding wisdom. They all assume that you know the true and living God, and that, of course, you know the true and living God through faith in His Son. If you are a believer, then here are the foundational realities of wisdom that you need to know.
Number one, fear your God, fear your God. Chapter 1, verse 7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy is understanding.” Everything starts when you fear God. And if you go through Proverbs this is what you find. For those who fear God, they are promised prolonged life, blessing upon blessing, far beyond wealth. They are promised an abundant richness in life, and they are promised that they will never be turned over completely to evil.
Those who fear God, says the Proverbs, sleep satisfied, avoid evil, have confidence in the future, are praised by others, and have their prayers answered. All of that because you fear the Lord. When I say “fear the Lord” I don’t mean you’re terrified by Him, but that you respect Him, that you honor Him, that you give Him glory, that you worship Him. Who wouldn’t want to have a long life, fully blessed, an abundant life. Who wouldn’t want to sleep satisfied, avoid evil, foresee confidence in the future, receive praise and respect, and have their prayers answered, and end up in heavenly glory. Comes to those who fear the Lord. Fear your God.
Secondly, wisdom in Proverbs teaches us this very important lesson. And, parents, this is a series of lessons that you need to make sure imbedded in your children’s hearts. Secondly, guard your mind, guard your mind. Over in chapter 3 of Proverbs, “My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments.” You become what you think. “So let your heart keep my commandments. For length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” This is about guarding your mind. Remember what you’ve been taught. Hold tightly to divine commands.
In the fourth chapter of Proverbs, verse 20 adds, “My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to you and to those who find them and health to all their body. So watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” Guard your mind, guard your heart – and heart is the same as mind. Wisdom says fear your God, give honor to God, and guard your mind, which means remember the truths you’ve been taught, hold fast to those things, do not let them out of your sight, out of your thoughts. Watch over your heart, watch over your mind, guard it with all diligence.
Thirdly - Proverbs is very strong on this - obey your parents, obey your parents. Back in chapter 1 and verse 8 we read, “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching; indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head and ornaments around your neck. They make you a delightful, even beautiful, lovely person. Obey your parents, your father and your mother, rather than listening to sinners,” in verse 10, “who entice you and corrupt you and lead you,” as verse 19 says, “into violence, and maybe even death.”
Chapter 2, verse 1: “My son, if you will receive my words and treasure my commandments within you, make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding. If you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures, then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding.” This is going to be passed down to you by your parents. Listen to your parents; listen to the wisdom that God has taught them.
Again, over in chapter 4, it begins, “Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father, and give attention that you may gain understanding, for I give you sound teaching; do not abandon my instruction. When I was a son to my father, tender and the only son in the sight of my mother, then he taught me and said to me, ‘Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments and live; acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding! Do not forget or turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will guard you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is this: acquire wisdom; with all your acquiring, get understanding. Prize her, she will exalt you.’” And this begins with your parents. Listen to your parents. Obey the wisdom of your parents.
There’s more here down in verse 10, chapter 4: “Hear, my son, and accept my sayings and the years of your life will be many. I have directed you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in upright paths.” And then in verse 19 the opposite: “The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know over what they stumble. My son,” verse 20, “give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those who find them and health to all their body.” Obey your parents. Listen to them when they instruct you.
Fourthly, wisdom says select your friends carefully, select your friends. Fear the Lord, guard your mind, obey your parents, select your friends. Chapter 1, verse 10: “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, ‘Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood, let us ambush the innocent without cause; let us swallow them alive like Sheol, even whole, as those who go down to the pit.’ – some kind of gang going to do some murder – ‘We will find all kinds of precious wealth, and fill our houses with spoil; throw in your lot with us, we shall all have one purse.’ My son, do not walk in the way with them. Keep your feet from their path, for their feet run to evil and they hasten to shed blood. Indeed, it is useless to spread a baited net in the sight of any bird; but they lie in wait for their own blood; they ambush their own lives.” Stay away from those who are sinful, who are wicked.
Chapter 2, again, in verse 11, “Discernment or discretion will guard you, understanding will watch over you, to deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things; from those who leave the path of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness; who delight in doing evil and rejoice in the perversity of evil; whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways; to deliver you from the strange woman, from the adulteress who flatters with her words.” Wisdom will guard you from evil companions. Wisdom will rescue you from death, so carefully select your friends.
Go over to chapter 4 for just a moment and verse 10: “Hear, my son, accept my sayings and the years of your life will be many. I’ve directed you in the way of wisdom, I have led you in an upright path. When you walk, your steps will not be impeded; if you run, you will not stumble. Take hold of instruction; do not let go. Guard her, for she is your life. Do not enter the path of the wicked, do not proceed in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not pass by it; turn away from it and pass on. For they cannot sleep unless they do evil; they are robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble. They eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence. But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day. The way of the wicked is like darkness; they don’t know over what they stumble.” Lessons, parents, that you must teach your children. These are the things we majored on in our family: fear your God, guard your mind, obey your parents, select your friends. Very, very foundational.
Number five, subdue your desires, subdue your desires. In chapter 5, verse 20 – and there are a number of places we could go, but this is good to illustrate – verse 20 of chapter 5, “For why should you, my son, be exhilarated with an adulteress and embrace the bosom of a foreigner? For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He watches all his paths. His own iniquities will capture the wicked, and he will be held with the cords of his sin. He will die for lack of instruction, and in the greatness of his folly he will go astray.” The writer of Proverbs is saying, “Get a grip on your desires, subdue your desires.”
Over in chapter 6, verse 20, “My son, observe the commandment of your father, do not forsake the teaching of your mother; bind them continually on your heart; tie them around your neck. When you walk about, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will talk to you. For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light; and reproofs for discipline are the way of life to keep you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress. Do not desire her beauty in your heart, nor let her capture you with her eyelids. For on account of a harlot one is reduced to a load of bread, and an adulteress hunts for the precious life.”
Chapter 7, “My son, keep my words, treasure my commandments within you. Keep my commandments and live, and my teaching as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. Say to wisdom, ‘You are my sister,’ call understanding your intimate friend; that they may keep you from an adulteress, from the foreigner who flatters with her words.”
Then just one other portion, chapter 9, verse 13, “The woman of folly is boisterous, she’s naive and knows nothing. She sits at the doorway of her house, on a seat by the high places of the city, calling to those who pass by, who are making their paths straight: ‘Whoever is naive, let him turn in here,’ and to him who lacks understanding she says, ‘Stolen water is sweet; and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.’ But he doesn’t know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.” Beware of sexual immorality; it’ll take you to the grave.
Fear your God, guard your mind, obey your parents, select your friends, subdue your desires. That leads to a sixth: be faithful to your wife. Be faithful to your wife. Back again in chapter 5, beautiful passage really in verse 15 with euphemistic language, “Drink water from your own cistern and fresh water from your own well. Should your springs be dispersed abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be yours alone and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth. As a loving hind and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; be exhilarated always with her love. For why should you, my son, be exhilarated with an adulteress and embrace the bosom of a foreigner? For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He watches all his paths. His own iniquities will capture the wicked, and he will be held with the cords of his sin. He will die for lack of instruction, and in the greatness of his folly he will go astray.” Don’t be tempted to be unfaithful to your spouse. By the way, the Hebrew word for “self-control” is used forty-two times in Proverbs, forty-two times. Self-control means you subdue your desires and you are faithful to your spouse.
Number seven, watch your words, watch your words – very practical. Chapter 4 of Proverbs, again, and verse 24, “Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put devious speech far from you.” “Put away a deceitful mouth and put devious speech far from you.” Another way to say that is when your mouth is moving it ought to be speaking the truth.
Chapter 5, verse 1: “My son, give attention to my wisdom, incline your ear to my understanding; that you may observe discretion and your lips may reserve knowledge.” When you speak, knowledge is gain. Chapter 6, verse 12: “A worthless person, a wicked man, is the one who walks with a perverse mouth.” Nothing is worse than being a liar, deceiving people. God puts a premium on truth. “A worthless person, a wicked man, is the one who speaks with a perverse mouth.”
Over in chapter 10 and verse 11, “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions. On the lips of the discerning, wisdom is found, but a rod is for the back of him who lacks understanding. Wise men store up knowledge, but with the mouth of the foolish, ruin is at hand.” Speak the truth or you’ll bring about ruin.
Go down to verse 18 of chapter 10: “He who conceals hatred has lying lips; he who spreads slander is a fool. When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise. The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver, the heart of the wicked is worth little. The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of understanding.” Down in verse 31: “The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom, but the perverted tongue will be cut out. The lips of the righteous bring forth what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked what is perverted.” Watch your words. Watch your words.
Number eight, work hard, work hard. Back in chapter 6 - this is a very familiar illustration - verse 6, “Go to the ant, O sluggard,” – a sluggard is a lazy person – “go to the ant, O lazy person, observe her ways and be wise, which, having no chief, officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer and gathers her provision in the harvest. How long will you lie down, O lazy one? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest – your poverty will come in like a vagabond and your need like an armed man.” One very, very successful way to end up poor is to be lazy. You’ll end up there. Your poverty will come like a vagabond, like an armed man will overtake you. It just takes laziness. This is a call to work hard.
In chapter 10, verse 2, “Ill-gotten gains do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death. The Lord will not allow the righteous to hunger, but He will reject the craving of the wicked. Poor is he who works with a negligent hand.” That’s a basic principle. You want to be poor, be negligent in your work; and you’ll end up poor. “But the hand of the diligent makes rich. He who gathers in summer is a son who acts wisely, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who acts shamefully.” Work hard. And in the book of Proverbs we read things like this: lazy people won’t work, sleep long, waste time, waste energy, waste opportunity, suffer hunger, end up poor, and fail to make a meaningful impact in life. Work hard.
Number nine, manage your money, manage your money. Back in Proverbs chapter 3, verse 9, “Honor the Lord from your wealth” – so the first thing you do with your money is honor the Lord; that’s where it starts – “and from the first of all your produce,” – the first part of your crop that comes in goes to the Lord, that’s the first fruits – “and your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine.” So you start with your wealth by giving to the Lord first. Honor the Lord from your wealth and from the first of all your produce.
Over in chapter 6, verse 1, here’s another illustration: “If you have become surety for your neighbor, having given a pledge for a stranger, if you have been ensnared with the words of your mouth, have been caught with the words of your mouth, do this then, my son, and deliver yourself; since you have come into the hand of your neighbor, go, humble yourself, and importune” – or plead with – “your neighbor. Give no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids; deliver yourself like a gazelle from a hunter’s hand and like a bird from the hand of a fowler.” In other words, what he is saying is if you have managed somehow to obligate yourself as a personal guarantee for your neighbor, get yourself out of that. You don’t want to be in a possession of debt that you can’t do anything about because it's someone else’s debt.
Don’t be surety, don’t be a co-signer for a neighbor or a stranger. Don’t pledge to back up a stranger financially because you have no idea what that stranger is going to do, and you have taken the money that God has given you and you’ve put it into the control of someone else. You are to be the steward of that. Manage your money; there’s much more in Proverbs about that.
And then a final, tenth principle is to serve others. Chapter 3, verse 27: “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it’s in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go, and come back, and tomorrow I will give it,’ when you have it with you. Do not devise harm against your neighbor, while he lives securely beside you. Do not contend with a man without cause, if he has done you no harm. Do not envy a man of violence, do not choose any of his ways. For the devious are an abomination to the Lord; but He is intimate with the upright. The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked, and He blesses the dwelling of the righteous.” In other words, God’s going to bless you if you are generous, if you do good. “Do not” – back to verse 27 – “withhold good from those to whom it is due.” Verse 34 says even God gives grace to the afflicted; we are to do the same.
So there are some basic elements in life where wisdom is found. Fear your God, guard your mind, obey your parents, select your friends, subdue your desires, be faithful to your spouse, watch your words, work hard, manage your money, and serve others. It all starts with fearing God.
Proverbs 4:5 says, “Acquire wisdom! Acquire wisdom!” Wisdom is better than jewels; it’s better than gold; it’s better than silver; it’s better than pearls. In everything acquire wisdom, acquire wisdom. That’s chapter 3, verse 13: “How blessed is the man who finds wisdom. Profit is better than the profit of silver, her gain better than fine gold. She’s more precious than jewels; and nothing you desire compares with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who hold her fast.” Acquire wisdom. Lot of knowledge in the world, not much wisdom.
Now having said that, this wisdom is hard to find, it’s hard to find. Proverbs chapter 8 lays out a most interesting presentation of the difficulty of finding wisdom. It’d be something for you to read; I won’t go through it. But it asks the question, “Where do I find wisdom? Where do I go to find wisdom?”
“O naive ones, understand prudence; O fools, understand wisdom. Listen, for I will speak noble things; and the opening of my lips will reveal right things.” If you want wisdom, verse 32 says, “Listen to me, blessed are they who keep my ways. Heed instruction, be wise. Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at my doorposts. He who finds me” – meaning wisdom – “finds life and obtains favor from the Lord. But he who sins against me injures himself; and those who hate me love death.” Find wisdom, search for wisdom. Back in verse 19, “Wisdom is better than gold, again, even pure gold, better than choicest silver.” Find wisdom. Find wisdom. Pursue wisdom.
There’s a chapter in Job, chapter 28, in which Job lays this same question, “Where do I find wisdom?” He lays it out and he shows the futility of people trying to find wisdom. It’s a marvelous chapter, all the way from verse 1 to verse 28 of that twenty-eighth chapter. But Job says, “Wisdom is not found anywhere but with God.” Only in God do we find wisdom.
So let’s go to the New Testament and just wrap up our thoughts this morning. In chapter 5 of Ephesians, verse 15, “Therefore be careful how you walk,” – daily conduct is in view here – “not as unwise men but as wise.” Be careful how you walk. Walk wisely, walk wisely. In other words, be circumspect about your life; know what life is supposed to be and how you are supposed to behave, and thank God for the power by the Holy Spirit to live that life. Be careful how you walk. Walk not as unwise, but as wise. Walk means your daily conduct. Manifest that divine wisdom every day. So there’s a first principle here: be careful how you walk; walk wisely.
There’s a second principle in verse 16, “making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” It sounds like Psalm 90, doesn’t it: “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.” “The days are evil.” What do you mean by that? All days, all places - evil reigns in the world. If you’re going to be a wise person, you conduct your life wisely, and – listen – you understand the value of time. You understand the value of time. Redeem the time: “Make the most of your time, buy up for yourself,” – a middle voice in the Greek – “buy up for yourself the time,” definite article. Don’t fritter your life away; don’t waste time.
Thirdly, if you’re going to walk wisely, you have to walk in divine wisdom; you have to make the most of your time. Thirdly, you have to understand what the will of the Lord is: “Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” The will of the Lord is revealed in His Word. And then a final point: “Don’t get drunk with wine, that’s dissipation, be filled with the Spirit.”
Understand how you are to walk, understand the precious character of time, learn the will of God, and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. That is how Jesus lived, by the way, perfect example. He walked in wisdom – perfect, pure, righteous wisdom. He had an amazing sense of time. He often said, “My time has not yet come.” He wasted not a moment. Sense of urgency in every hour and every day. He always did the Father’s will, and He always did it in the power of the Holy Spirit. Wisdom is found in God and God alone, nowhere else; and it is available, it is available for all who love God and come to Christ.
Paul had a prayer – and I’ll close with this – Ephesians 1: “I make mention of you in my prayers,” verse 17, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.”
That’s my prayer for all of you, that you would know divine wisdom, that you would have through the revelation of the Word of God divine knowledge, that the Spirit would enlighten your heart so that you would understand the hope of your calling and the glory that awaits, and that you would trust in and experience the greatness of His power working in and through us.
I hope on this Mother’s Day you might follow up this message with a discussion with those in your family about wisdom. The remedy for all foolishness is wisdom, whether it’s personal foolishness or family foolishness or any other kind. The answer comes from the wisdom of God. And how blessed are we to have that wisdom here granted to us: the mind of Christ.
Father, we thank You for the time we’ve been able to share this morning. And I know it’s been intense with the Word of God; but the Word never returns void, always accomplishes that to which You sent it. Far more powerful than anything I could ever say is what You have said. So take this truth and this revelation from heaven and make us all wise, that we may walk wisely, redeeming the time, knowing Your will, and being filled with Your Spirit. That’s our prayer, in Christ’s name. Amen.
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